David Beckham’s continued difficulty in securing the long-term stadium deal he wants in Miami to start a new MLS franchise may have just gotten more complicated. On Friday, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the second-tier North American Soccer League (NASL) were sold to a Brazilian trio – Paulo Cesso, Ricardo Geromel, and Rafael Bertani. On the surface, the sale of a second division club should not impact Beckham’s plans or that of Major League Soccer but here is why it does.
New Strikers Owners have deep pockets and Shared Market
Beckham’s Miami MLS team is still years away from kicking a ball. While MLS has successfully poached other second division markets they have never set up shop in a market as complicated as South Florida where the existing club has owners with comparable financial resources to many in MLS. The estimated net worth of the new Strikers ownership is placed at somewhere near a quarter of a billion dollars. Should the Strikers choose to create a bloody turf war in the area with a significant head start this might just end badly for Beckham and MLS.
For those not familiar with the area, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are 21 miles apart downtown to downtown. In American big city terms, that is virtually around the corner. While it is theoretically possibly for both clubs to coexist in different league in the same market, particularly given the population of nearly six million in the catchment area, southeast Florida is a notoriously fickle market and could very stick with an established brand.
Ricardo Geromel who will serve as the Managing Partner of the club and take over day-to-day management was direct in his appeal on Friday. “Our vision is to boost the level of play in the NASL to the point where local players and fans won’t have to look any further than their own backyards to play and watch world-class pro soccer.”
Paulo Cesso added, “Who is the goalkeeper that made the best save of all World Cups? Gordon Banks! Who do Germans say is their own Pelé? Gerd Muller! Who did Pelé himself say was the best player in the world? George Best! These legends have all played for the Strikers! Other stars that played for our team were Elias Figueroa, Nene Cubillas, Marinho Chagas, and Ray Hudson. These players made us dream. We are proud and ready to announce that we will invest to turn the Strikers back into a household name.”